Friday, August 11, 2017

Contemporary Black Women Artists in the Cunningham Center: Carrie Mae Weems

Guest blogger Zoe Dong is a Smith College student, class of 2018J, with a major in studio art. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. This is the second of a three-post series on contemporary works by Black women in the Center's collection.

Carrie Mae Weems was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon and is a multimedia artist who works in text, video, textiles, and most prominently photography. She has won numerous awards including the MacArthur genius grant, the ICP Spotlight award from the International Center of Photography, and Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois medal. Her work addresses racism, sexism, family relationships, class and power, her photographs spanning from intimate documentations of her family and community to powerful works that widely address the African-American experience.

Carrie Mae Weems. American, 1950-. Jim, If You Choose to Accept, the Mission is to Land on Your Own Two Feet. 1988. gelatin silver print. SC 1990:20.

The Cunningham Center has two works of Weems’: Jim, If You Choose to Accept, the Mission is to Land on Your Own Two Feet and Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen from Grace and into the Hands of Evil. Both created in 1988, these two works are carefully posed portraits of characters with accompanying text underneath that hint at a lengthier narrative than the ones presented in these square, black and white compositions. Weem’s famous Kitchen Table series uses similarly square, posed compositions, and much of her other work also uses mysterious, leading text that recalls fictional mythologies and unidentified stories.

Carrie Mae Weems. American, 1950-. Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen from Grace and into the Hands of Evil. 1988. gelatin silver print. SC 1991:2.